Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History, Volume XX

Thursday, April 23, 2009
This is Emily Warren Roebling. She was born in Cold Spring, NY in 1843. She married a civil engineer named Washington Roebling in 1865. Washington was the son of John A. Roebling, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. While John was beginning work on the bridge, the couple went to Europe to study caissons.

Their lives changed when John Roebling died of tetanus upon their return from Europe. Washington took over the project, but developed a severe case of the bends early in construction.

And this is why Emily Warren Roebling is so ill-behaved. Instead of allowing her family's life's work to be completed by someone else, she essentially became the first female field engineer in American history. While her husband was bed-ridden, she became intimately familiar with concepts such as material strength, stress analysis, cable construction and calculating catenary curves. She dealt with the politicians, the other engineers, the construction staff. She even represented her family's interests in a meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers, where her husband was a member and she was not. For fourteen years she wielded the baton for her ill husband.

When the bridge was completed in 1883, she was recognized by Abram Stevens Hewitt, who said the bridge was "..an everlasting monument to the sacrificing devotion of a woman and of her capacity for that higher education from which she has been too long disbarred."

After the completion of the bridge, she and her family moved to New Jersey. She received a Law Degree from New York University, and passed away in 1903.

Truly a remarkable woman, with a formidable mind and will. Thank you, Emily Warren Roebling, for doing more than was expected, and more than anyone thought you capable. Ill-behaved, indeed.

6 comments:

MWT said...

Ahh, Roeblings. I'm passing familiar with some others of that family. :)

Anne C. said...

Oooh, as a builder myself, I have to say, that is So. Cool.
Yay ill-behaved women!

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, I have to admit I thought of you (and Nathan) when I was researching this. :)

Nathan said...

I was aware of how she oversaw building the bridge (while her husband watched through a telescope propped up in his bed).

I don't think I knew they moved to New Jersey later. I may have to rethink their place on my hero-worship pedestal. :D

neurondoc said...

Nathan -- be nice. NJ is a very nice place. Or at least parts of it are.

John the Scientist said...

"Nathan -- be nice. NJ is a very nice place. Or at least parts of it are."

Yes. The parts within walking distanace of PA. :D